There has been much discussion lately on the subject of whether Dobbs Ferry should opt in to allow cannabis dispensaries to open in our village. I haven’t yet heard a good argument against it, other than that we should “wait and see” what happens elsewhere. If we take that approach, however, and later decide we want to opt in, it may be too late. Dispensaries will have opened in nearby areas and may not want to come fill one of our many empty downtown storefronts. Future trustees will also confront tremendous inertia to overturn an initial decision to opt out.
Dobbs Ferry should be looking to attract all sorts of new businesses to our downtown. Based on the experience of the 16 other states which have legalized recreational cannabis before New York, dispensaries are safe, clean, well-run businesses, with tight security and regulated products. A dispensary in downtown Dobbs would be a boon to our existing businesses, as it could draw in potential customers from our neighboring Rivertowns, who would then be more likely to shop at our stores and patronize our restaurants.
It is not a matter of whether dispensaries would attract “unsavory types” from neighboring areas. Cannabis is regularly used by many upstanding residents of Dobbs Ferry, and is unquestionably a much safer and less addictive substance than alcohol (and tobacco). There are five liquor stores and a beer store already in Dobbs Ferry, not to mention the countless bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, or the supermarkets and delis that sell beer. It is unalloyed hypocrisy to allow the sale of alcohol but not cannabis.
Residents of Dobbs Ferry already have access to cannabis via a black market that is unregulated, unsafe, and untaxed. Opting in to allow dispensaries to open here would help ensure that our community has access to safe and tested products; that the black market might diminish in scale, which would make it harder, not easier, for teens to access cannabis; and that some of the proceeds would go toward benefitting our community. It remains to be decided how such tax revenue would be used, but just to suggest a few ideas: we could use it to support the Youth Services Council, the Recreation Department, the Ambulance Corps, or even apply those funds toward burying the power lines downtown and helping to beautify our village while protecting it from increasingly frequent power outages.